Sara Jane Bowers, a senior from Statesboro, Ga., hits from the tee during the Brenau University Golden Tigers Spring Invitational golf tournament at Chattahoochee Golf Club. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Sara Jane Bowers, a senior from Statesboro, Ga., hits from the tee during the Brenau University Golden Tigers Spring Invitational golf tournament at Chattahoochee Golf Club. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Golf Team Ranked No. 3 in NAIA Coaches Poll

Oct. 3, 2017
David Morrison

Propelled by early victories over highly ranked competitors, the Brenau University golf team in only its fifth year of intercollegiate competition leapt from virtually invisible in pre-seasons rankings to No. 3 in the nation in the first 2017-18 regular season NAIA Women’s Golf Coaches Poll.

The team, which had never made it to any Top 25 poll, had been picked to finish no better than third place in the Appalachian Athletics Conference behind SCAD Atlanta and Milligan (Tenn.) College, ranked 10th and 18th respectively in the preseason poll. However, the Golden Tigers at the SCAD Atlanta invitational Tournament in Covington, Georgia, on Sept. 18-19 jumped into the limelight with a decisive first-place finish in the nine-team tournament over No. 4-in-the-nation Dalton State, No. 10 SCAD Atlanta and No. 14 Northwestern Ohio.

“I’m so excited for and proud of these ladies,” said Head Coach Damon Stancil. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work, and they were rewarded with both great scores in our last tournament and a great ranking.”

If the September tournament for the Brenau team was a “statement victory,” those doing more of the talking were senior Sara Jane Bowers of Statesboro, Georgia, who set the pace for the field with a two-stroke lead after the final hole. Sophomore Niquole Mangal of Sugar Hill, Georgia, finished third, just a stroke behind Dalton State’s Hannah Gasaway. Bowers shot a combined 142 in the two rounds to Gasaway’s 144.

“Coach Stancil has taken this team from zero to number three in the nation in such a short time,” said Brenau University President Ed Schrader. “That is an amazing effort and an outstanding accomplishment. I know the entire Golden Tigers family joins me in recognizing the coach and team.”

The Golden Tigers golf team was established in 2013 with four players and Stancil, the team’s only coach.

“It really shows the hard work that we’ve put in coming up to this point,” said Sara Jane Bowers, senior and an early recruit to the team. “We didn’t expect the No. 3 spot, especially our first time in the top 25, so it’s definitely something really exciting. I think it gives a great momentum moving forward this season. It’s big for Brenau and this team.”

In the NAIA poll, Brenau was behind only its in-state fellows SCAD Savannah (No. 1) and Dalton State College (No. 2). Rounding out the top five were SCAD Atlanta and Cumberlands University in Williamsburg, Kentucky.

The team closed out the 2016-17 season with several strong showings – including back-to-back wins at the Golden Tigers Invitational and the Spring Phoenix Invitational – and closed out the year with a fourth-place finish at the SSAC Tournament.

“We returned five of our top six from last year’s squad and added some very talented players for 2017-2018,” Stancil said. “Then our talent really showed up well at our first tournament of the fall, which helped us top several strong teams and earn this ranking.

“We’ve talked about the ranking, and while our players are excited about it, they’ve really impressed me by taking it in stride. They know that we are the same players we were a few weeks ago and that our sport plays no favorites. We need to stay in the moment and play one shot at a time.”

The Golden Tigers open play Monday at the two-day AAC Fall Championships, hosted by Union (Ky.) College at Wasioto Winds Golf Club in Pineville, Kentucky.

For the complete Top 25 poll, click here. For more information about the Golden Tigers golf team, go to brenautigers.com.

General inquiries: info@brenau.edu, +1-770-534-6299 or +1-800-252-5119 | Admissions: admissions@brenau.edu, +1-770-534-6100 or +1-800-252-5119 ext. 6100